Much to my chagrin, I’m a Cyberpunk 2077 defender these days. Sure, the patches and technical updates unmask that underneath all the dick-clipping bugs, there was a…mostly unremarkable open-world RPG trying to claw its way out. But it has a lot of heart, as well. The story of V and Johnny Silverhand delves into poignant themes of mortality, the connections between people in the capitalist hellscape of Night City are impactful, and even if it doesn’t have much for the player to do, I love riding around it and imagining the possibilities the city holds. But despite my begrudging infatuation with CD Projekt’s take on Cyberpunk, what we’re not going to do is entertain any revisionist history on where the game was at when it launched.
In an interview with GameIndustry.biz, CD Projekt’s VP of PR and communication Michał Platkow-Gilewski talked about the game’s journey to get to this point, and the proposed “redemption arc” Cyberpunk 2077 has been on since December of 2020. This was the time when PlayStation 4 and Xbox One copies were crashing nonstop, glitches were getting shared through social media like wildfire, and the developer was having to refund copies to dissatisfied customers. However, according to Platkow-Gilewski, the narrative that Cyberpunk 2077 was busted for last-gen consoles was just a meme that became cool to spread.
“I actually believe Cyberpunk on launch was way better than it was received, and even the first reviews were positive,” he told GameIndustry.biz. “Then it became a cool thing not to like it. We went from hero to zero really fast. That was the tough moment. We didn’t know what was happening. We knew that the game is great, yes we can improve it, yes we need to take time to do it, and we need to rebuild some stuff.
“That took us a lot of time, but I don’t believe we were ever broken. We were always like: Let’s do this.”
Do we think Sony just takes games off the PlayStation Store because it’s a cool thing to do?
If you want to say your game has had a redemption arc, just own it. You gain nothing by pretending 2020 didn’t happen, especially when the progress the game has made is one of the Phantom Liberty expansion’s biggest selling points. GameIndustry.biz’s entire interview is framed around the idea that CD Projekt Red has a relationship to mend with its audience, and while yes, some of the memetic force behind Cyberpunk 2077’s hate was bandwagoning on the collective bit, that game had no business being sold on PS4 and Xbox One. You kind of tacitly admit as much when Phantom Liberty isn’t launching on those older systems.
I respect that developers who worked on this game probably love the thing you made, warts and all. God knows a lot of them were put through the wringer to just get it out the door, though you claim workplace conditions have improved in the GI.biz interview and that CD Projekt Red has allocated resources to a team meant to ensure workers have work/life balance. But even those of us who like the game haven’t forgotten that those viral videos weren’t just made in a vacuum. We played the busted version of Cyberpunk 2077 and still remember it. My PS4 copy crashed over a dozen times in my first playthrough. The alleged Cyberpunk 2077 redemption arc is still ongoing with Phantom Liberty on the way. So let’s not pretend all the work to get here didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean Cyberpunk 2077 didn’t have something worthwhile in there, or didn’t turn into something even better, but there was a reason why things blew up in the way they did during launch.